Author’s Note: This is a converted blog entry. It was originally published on 04.19.14 @ 11:16pm, US Pacific.
Okay, so I just finished watching ‘The Geography Club’ which is based on the novel of the same name by out-gay author Brent Hartinger.
The ‘Geography Club’ book cover as it was originally published.
First off, I love the books (even if one of them in the series was not my particular favorite – the plot seemed a bit contrived or too messagey for my tastes). Russell Middlebrook is a great GYA (no, I didn’t misspell that ) – gay young adult, character. The series virtually has no sexual scenes in it. It is more about Russell’s evolving ownership of who he is and what that means to him and to those he surrounds himself with.
I’ve reread the books several times. I love the tapestry that Mr. Hartinger brings to the table with his characters (both large and small) within this creative and entertaining world. Brent is a great storyteller with a fine and distinctive voice. It’s no wonder why the book(s) were optioned. It’s a great story to tell and in this modern age where we are taking up the no bully call, it’s a very timely message to get out there. When I heard they were making the movie of the first book I was thrilled.
Then I started to hear about the ‘creative choices’ that Hollyweird was beginning to make regarding the work.
So here’s the dealio with this – My daughter graduated Magna Cum Laude from SFSU film school. So you can best believe I was in the thick of it with her required movie shoots, her film projects (hell, I assisted in the editing process financially, physically and emotionally). I have well over forty years of being in theatre. I’ve worked on various film projects throughout those years as well. So when Hollywood (even an independent movie company) makes ‘creative choices’ that deviate from the core essence of the film as a reader and an audience member in that theater i feel nothing but disappointment with a light dusting of rage.
The production of Geography Club as a movie unit was cohesive and professional all the way. There was nothing amateurish about the project or the final product. The cast was great (even if they barely were passable as teens in high school – (why do casting directors insist on casting like 5 to 20 years beyond the actual age of where the characters are supposed to be??) I liked the cast as a whole – even if Alex Newell’s character didn’t really gel in this new ‘creative choice’ version of the Hartinger story. I knew it was a name the youngsters would recognize from his stint in Glee. I get that. Not that I agree with it, but I get it.
Sidebar casting note on the film: There was absolutely NO way that I was ever going to believe Alex’s character was even remotely 80/20. That actor only seems to have one note when it comes to acting (thus far) and it was rather tiring on Glee. To foist his girlish mannerisms and try to get the audience to accept that he remotely thinks of himself as 80/20 (straight/gay) would’ve worked better with an actor that could play the straighter part a bit more deftly.
In the books the sport was baseball. Why the producers went with football was beyond me. It just didn’t make any sense creatively. There’s nothing wrong with the macho image of baseball – so why the change up? Was one of the producers a fucking football fan? Great – keep it out of the movies you produce and go watch your fucking games on TV or in the stadium like the rest of us. The actor playing Kevin btw, couldn’t even respond like a quarterback would in a game. Did no one think to coach him? My hubby used to play for Clemson back in the day. And before that it was at Massillon back in Ohio – arguably the birthplace of modern football as we know it today. So while I am not the football fanatic fan here, the hubby is. When Justin Deely’s Kevin had the ball my hubby just rolled his eyes. Now for the other eye roll moment of the film? When the geeky bullied Bryan character – played beautifully by Teo Olivares, was soothing his battered soul by playing the cello in the band room while crying, the hubby rolled his eyes again (why? well, only because he used to study piano under Szell and his father was the assistant conductor and head of the brass section for Szell’s orchestra). We both have a grumble about how badly Hollywood misses the mark when an actor has to ‘play’ an instrument. Teo obviously was left to his own devices when figuring out how to play the scene. The only issue was he didn’t have the greatest coaching while doing it. That lack of direction broke the great drama going on with what was supposed to be conveyed in that scene.
But I am getting ahead of myself a bit. You see, when books get optioned into films the first thing the studios often tell an author is – ‘well, books aren’t movies, so there’ll be some creative choices we’ll have to make along the way.’ To which, if it were me, I’d say fine – either I am in and have to approve any changes to my world or deals off. And yes, I’d walk away from any money or implied prestige (and let’s be honest here, even if a book gets optioned there’s no guarantee it’ll be a hit) of having my work produced for film.
Way I figure it, you came to me because of the world I created. Because of the way I told a particular story. Therefore, let’s discuss this whole thing but keep it buried in the back of your little skull that it is my story – different medium I’ll grant you – but no different in its execution. That part is a lie. It is the greatest lie that Hollywood pushes to novelists who are caught up that ‘Hollywood’ called and wants to make a movie of your work. They are banking on the fact that a novelist knows nothing about movie industry. And they play upon that misconception to their advantage. Suddenly the screenwriter swoops in with the producers and begin with their machete’s whacking away at the world they ‘supposedly fell in love with.’
Not that I think that my stuff will get turned into a film – unless of course, my daughter decides to do something with one of my books and is successful in raising the cash to do so. Then we’ll talk. But then again, I’ve got the Daddy card to play as well.
In the end my feelings about Geography Club were mixed. I was happy that it was made. But the screenplay was TERRIBLE. OMG, it was fucking flat as all fuck. The actors did the best with what they were given but the screenplay carried none of the weight in the light humor or the darker pathos. It was just flatlined right out of the gate. I watched it with my granddaughter. In the end she said it was an okay movie but was more interested in what I told her the books were about and how they panned out and where the movie deviate and went horribly wrong. So at least she’s interested in reading Hartinger’s series, so that’s a plus. But I was saddened that it never made it’s money back so they’ll be no other Middlebrook movies down the road. The series was a brilliant one to choose in this time of the anti-bully movement that is solidly taking root in America. Because of the mismanagement and seriously misaligned creative choices (really, that term alone should equate ‘cancer’ to a novelist’s world – I am telling you know.) And don’t think that audience members don’t already know this. I have NEVER heard a viewer say – ‘gee, that was BETTER than the book…’ You never really hear that… But the reverse is often true.
And don’t get me started on the Harry Potter series – or I’ll be writing about that travesty until the cows literally come home.
I am beyond sad that the Middlebrook blew it’s wad on this production. The ‘creative choices’ just flat out sucked. It’s not even my world, but dammit, it was a world I loved nonetheless. I hold the director and producers completely accountable for the product that arrived flatlined before it even had a chance to take its first breath.
So grab a fucking clue Hollyweird. If you can’t write the good shit, then stop crapping on those that do actually write them. Do them justice rather than try to come in at the last minute and trash up some novelists world just cause you think you can. (**cough** “Mortal Instruments, much? **cough**)
Another gay series has been optioned for production. Jay Bell’s brilliant Season’s series. If I love Hartingers books, I fucking am obsessed with Bell’s series. Now the worry sets in. The film site is up – Something Like Summer . And if Hartinger’s work was any indication, I am seriously worried about Bell’s foray into film. The site looks good. The word from Bell is encouraging. I just hope they do the author and his world justice this time around.
We’ll see, though, don’t expect me to hold my breath about it (even if I do cross my fingers and toes on it).
Author’s Note: This is a converted blog post. It originally was published on 04.17.14 @ 7:53pm, US Pacific.
So here’s my deal with the whole writing thing that is so fucking out there scary. I mean – it’s my shit, and well… it’s out there, on the internet. While it was mine, on my computer, I was okay with its being in existence. Not that I am ashamed of the work or anything like that. I mean, all writers have to start somewhere. I get that it’s all part of the equation. And it’s not like I am not into public displays of my work, either. After all, I am a classically trained singer so I’ve trod a multitude of stages with audiences both large and small. So no, it’s not the public thing. Not really.
Okay, maybe it is.
Talk about the total flip-flopping – yeah, that’s me on the topic of publishing. Part of me won’t ever want to read ANY review – even if, as one published author told me, they’re “pushing so much sunshine up your backside that you get a sunburn from the experience.”
Plus, now that I have one complete novel “in the can” – so to speak, I can see how my writing has grown just from the experience of completing that first novel. I look back at the works I’ve been hammering out before and think – holy fuck, I gotta fix this!
Then again, maybe it isn’t fixing that needs to happen. Maybe, just maybe, I just need to breathe.
There’s no reason to panic.
There’s no reason to freak.
It’s digital bytes and bits, bro. All editable. In this e-age, nothing can’t be written that you can’t elevate to v2.0 – it’s all in the marketing, right?
Now there’s something to grapple with. Even with all of the information that’s out there (almost too much of it, actually) that you really don’t know what’ll work for a budding novelist who is thinking of publishing all on his lonesome. I mean, in that way I control the distribution and keep ALL of the rights. But then again, I gotta figure out how to get it all out there.
Okay, the hubby helps a lot too. So, that’s definitely in the big plus column. And I’ve got very honest friends who’ll tell me – yeah, that’s shit, fix it.
So I’m good there. I guess…
See? While I write about Angels, it’s this new Demon that’s come crawling out of my inner woodwork: Doubt.
But the battle rages on…
Hey, I wrote this, didn’t I?